Schoolchildren driving out the winterSchoolchildren driving out the winter
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Chalandamarz

Chalandamarz – "Schellen-Ursli" showed everyone how it's done

This custom originates in the Romansh-speaking part of the Canton of Graubünden in Switzerland on 1 March each year (chalanda=first, Marz=March). The event harks back to the time when the Romans occupied the land known as Raetia. 

 

At that time, Chalandamarz marked the start of the year and served to drive out the evil spirits. Later, it became the occasion for the Presidents of the community, Community Secretary, and treasurers, who were elected in February, to be inaugurated.

Chalandamarz in Pontresina in Grisons.
Chalandamarz in Pontresina in Grisons.

These days, schoolchildren sing and ring bells as they move through the village, driving out the winter. The exact details of the festivities vary markedly from village to village. They include whip-cracking, cowbell playing and walking round the village well.

A beautiful description of this tradition can be found in the book "Schellenursli" ("A bell for Ursli") by Alois Carigiet. It is available from bookshops.

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